Researcher Discovers How Mosquitoes Integrate Vision and Smell to Track Victims


Clément Vinauger, assistant teacher in the Department of Biochemistry, develops 3D-printed helmets to research study how mosquitoes utilize visual and olfactory hints to track their victims. Image credit: Kristin Rose.

Mosquitoes are smarter than individuals believe.

Researchers have actually discovered that mosquitoes are altering their searching regimens in action to host hints. For instance, in Africa, mosquitoes now acknowledge when individuals emerge from bednets in the early morning and have actually started searching more frequently throughout the day than during the night.

Virginia Tech researcher Clément Vinauger has actually found brand-new neurobiology related to mosquito vision and sense of smell that describes how Aedes aegypti mosquitoes track their victims.  

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread out dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro, and yellow fever infections. 

“Mosquitoes are impacting millions of people every year. I’ve been working to understand how mosquitoes navigate space and time. Analyzing how mosquitoes process information is crucial to figuring out how to create better baits and traps for mosquito control,” stated Vinauger, an assistant teacher in the Department of Biochemistry in the College of Farming and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

While researchers comprehend a lot about the mosquito’s sense of smell and how it targets CO2 exhalations to discover their hosts, really little is learnt about how the mosquito utilizes vision.

Vinauger found that the interaction in between the olfactory and visual processing centers of mosquitoes’ brains is what assists these pests target their victims so properly.

These findings were just recently released in the journal Existing Biology.

When mosquitoes experience CO2, they end up being brought in to dark, visual items, such as their hosts. What this brand-new research study reveals is that CO2 impacts the actions of nerve cells in mosquitoes’ visual centers, to assists them track visual items with a higher precision.

Vinauger and his research study group were able identify this by fitting the mosquitoes with small 3D-printed helmets and tethering them in a LED flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to puffs of CO2.

Mosquito flight simulatorLED mosquito flight simulator. Image credit: Alex Crookshanks.

“We monitored the mosquitoes’ responses to visual and olfactory cues by tracking wingbeat frequency, acceleration, and turning behavior,” stated Vinauger.

Utilizing calcium imaging experiments of the mosquitoes’ brains, the research study group discovered CO2 regulates mosquito neural actions to discrete visual stimuli.

In previous research study, Vinauger likewise utilized imaging and neural recordings to demonstrate how actions in the olfactory centers were regulated by mosquitoes’ previous experience, as they gained from swats and other efforts to toss them off our fragrance.

“The global strategy for management of mosquito-borne diseases involves controlling vector populations, to a large extent through insecticide application. However, mosquito-borne diseases are now resurgent, mostly because of rising insecticide resistance in populations. In this context, my research aims at closing the key knowledge gaps in our understanding of the mechanisms that allow mosquitoes to be such efficient disease vectors and, more specifically, to identify and characterize factors that modulate their host-seeking behavior,” stated Vinauger, who is likewise an associated professor of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the BIOTRANS program.

The focus of Vinauger’s lab is to examine circadian and pathogen caused modulations of mosquito-host interactions while leveraging interdisciplinary tools from biochemistry, neuroscience, engineering, and chemical ecology to research study how this impacts genes, nerve cells, and insect habits.

Other scientists associated with this research study were Jeffrey Riffell and Adrienne Fairhall from the Department of Biology and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington, Floris Van Breugel from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada-Reno, Michael Dickinson from Caltech, and Omar Akbari from the University of California San Diego.

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